Friday, April 24, 2009

Little Big Planet

The Playstation 3 came out promising more than the Playstation 2. The games were going to be bigger, the graphics better, and the story lines more epic. The PS3 was out for 2 years before I even really cared about having one. When I finally got one (for Christmas from my lovely fiance) the game I really wanted to play was Little Big Planet, which in a way delivers all the promises that the PS3 offered while at the same time changing the way we perceive games.

Everything old is new again

This game is like looking into what would happen if game designers continued to focus on side-scrollers rather then moving on to 3D games. The main character is a "Sack Boy" and he is as cute as can be. In a time where a lot of high selling games feature heavily armored, gun totting, macho-men, Sack Boy stands out. Sack Boy doesn't just adventure through the level, you can also control his emotions at any given time. You can make him happy or sad, scared or angry. Adding these emotions gives Sack Boy much more personality. He is already a lovable character just sitting there but by going that extra distance the designers made Sack Boy come alive.

The art direction has a "puppet show" feel to it. everything (besides sack boy) is either attatched to strings or mechanical. The world is supposed to be what we see in our dreams and the designers did a fantastic job on creating a magical look.

Little Big Planet has a great nostalgia factor to it. Even though it is the first game in a series it feels like a great classic game redone with todays graphics. Games do not need overdone stories or even have a deeper symbolical meaning to be art. Little Big Planet is to video games as Disney is to movies. When playing the game there is a sense of magic, and it can completely get you into the game world. Not only does it feel like an old classic video game, but also like playing in a toy box. You can even dress up your Sackboy in dozens of costumes (and hundreds more to download online), adding to the toy box element. Little Big Planet is fun and it brings out our inner-child which so few games (or any other piece of media) can do. This is a feat that the game should get full respect for.

Little Big Planet has a simple motto "Play, Create, Share" which is also how I will break down my look into the game.


Little Big Planet returns video games to its console roots, side scrollers. The levels are done in full 3d but you can only move left and right. The controls are simple: run, jump, and grab. Other than that it's the only way you really interact with the game world. You can also put stickers and objects places using a very unique menu screen. The menu screen is always attached to Sack Boy and with the simple press of a button it pops up without interrupting the game. It is a simple premise but no one has really done it before in such a way. The levels that come packed with the game are already top quality. Each world is based off a geographic location and is packed with charm. You meet many colourful characters on your adventures and each one has their own unique personality. Side-scrollers usually only focus on platforming and other challanges but Little Big Planet adds a little story and motive to every level. Some levels have you; helping break someoe out of jail and escaping using explosives, reuniting a bride and groom, or racing a giant scateboard down a steep hill. As you play the game you are constantly thrown in new situations, and it never becomes dull.

Just a normal event in Little Big Planet, riding a giant scateboard with 3 friends!

One of the ways that the game teaches you how to play is through optional tutorial videos. The game went above and beyond what was expected. Rather then having a simple tutorial the narrorator adds humour to the mix. Not only are the video helpful but they are legitamatly fun to watch.

Create / Share

The real artistic side to Little Big Planet actually falls into "Create" and "Share." As you play through Little Big Planet you earn different pieces of the game, all of which you can use in a level editor. So not only is the pre made game loaded with style and charm, but the designers of the game allowed you to share in their creation. The create aspect of the game really gives you an idea how hard and time consuming it is to actually create a worth while experience. Thankfully the already made levels are so full of ideas you can gather gameplay elements from there. I may talk a lot about game design and the art of gaming but I have to admit I have trouble creating something worthwile here. It is a good thing that you do not need to be artistically creative to enjoy the customizable side of Little Big Planet.

In the "Share" aspect of the game you can play any level that people have created and put online. So the game is not limited in the designers interpretation. It is "reader response criticism" at its best. Players can see what others think of the game by simply playing their levels. It also adds to the depth of the game, Little Big Planet could survive long past the normal length of time. People are currently creating shooters, action games, flying games, puzzle games and many others by customizing the game to their wishes. Sometimes you can find a game that is shallow and weak, but other times you may find something that has a lot more to say than even the lead designers did. Overall though, it still all boils down to letting out your inner child. Little Big Planet is the closest video game experience you can get with playing pretend as a child. All of a sudden everyone's story is out there to see and Sack Boy is more than happy to help you along.

"Sharing" also comes out in multiplayer. Every level of the main game and any level online can be played with 1-4 people. Normally multiplayer games are a competitive affair, but Little Big Planet expands on that idea. Players have to work together, and even though players are ranked at the end, all the rewards earned are shared with everyone. As I said earlier Little Big Planet is like playing with your toy box as a kid, and playing with others just enhances that feeling.

The Music

The game ties together with the help of the music. Every piece of the game is just loaded with charm and the music is no exception. The songs in the game are just as playful and fun as the game itself. A large majority of the songs have a happy feel to them. Rather then creating the songs from the ground up Media Molecule outsourced the work, to experienced musicians. By doing this the collected a wide variety of work from many creative minds. This added to the toy box feel of the game since it was many ideas coming together and forming a cohesive theme. Some of the songs even had lyrics and vocals which is very rare in game design. The vocals are minimal though and do not distract the player at any point.

My personal favourite song in the game and it is one of the first songs you hear. It is hard not to feel happy when lstening to it. This video also shows many player created levels.

Little Big Planet is so many things that my blog alone cannot summerize what makes it so special. It needs to be experienced to fully understand what makes it art. In a sense it is the only real way to understand any video game as a piece of art, but Little Big Planet is so unique and new it needs to be played to understand the magic. Art doesn't just have to make you think it can also make you feel, and Little Big Planet is a prime example of this. It is art that expresses emotion onto the player.

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